According to the title of this post, you are probably going to expect all the normal stuff that revolves around the heart. Everything about emotions and feelings; choosing between God and sin; understanding what our treasure is…
… and you would be right. What you probably aren’t expecting is for me to mention kidneys. Yes, you heard me: KIDNEYS! Those funny, bean-shaped organs that nestle nicely in your back. The ones that occasionally feel like they’re trying to explode out of your back when you get a particularly nasty case of menstrual cramps. (Nope? Just me then 🤷🏻♀️) You see, the Jews didn’t consider the heart to be the only organ connected to our emotions. Many of the times in the Bible where we read “heart” should literally be translated to “kidneys”.
Okay, so heart equals kidneys, but what does the Bible actually say?
As is the case in culture today, the Bible (Old and New Testaments) uses the heart as a metaphor for two different things. Firstly, it is used to describe our emotions and how we relate to them. Secondly, the heart is talked about in relation to the things that we treasure and are invested in. Understanding these metaphors provides us with a stable foundation so that when our own emotions try to take control, we can instead give them over to God.
The rest of this post will look at a few Bible passages that use these metaphors. Read through and meditate on them.
How we relate to our emotions
For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.Mark 7v21-23
Our hearts are the metaphorical seat of our emotions. It’s key to remember when we think about our relationship to our emotions that it is often when they are left unchecked that they lead to actions that lead to sin.
But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person.Matthew 15v18
Again, we are reminded that what is in our heart is what creates the person. In other words, if you allow emotions like anger, fear, and lust to have the most room in our hearts then we will create a life shaped by them. Fortunately, the same is true if we give more room to generosity, kindness, love and respect.
Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.Proverbs 4v23
We need to be wary that what is in our hearts is what we will end up living out. So if we spend all our time thinking about boys, then we will live a life focused on them. If we invest our emotions in our work, then we will live a life that is all about work. Equally true, if we make sure our hearts are filled with the Holy Spirit through prayer and Bible study then our lives will flow from God.
Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.Matthew 12v33-34
Just in case you haven’t got the message yet, what is in your heart will be reflected in your actions. This is key to understanding the relationship between our emotions and the type of person we are.
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.Psalm 73v26
But you know what is absolutely amazing! No matter how much our heart, our emotions, or our feelings derail us and lead us down paths we don’t want to be on, God is there for us. If we trust in Him, invest our emotions in Him, we don’t have to worry about failing. He will strengthen us every day, not just the days when we’re not sure we can keep going.
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.Psalm 51v10
Not only is God there to strengthen us but on those days when we do sin (which is basically every day), He is able to clean us up. In other words, God can do the hard work of removing those things in our hearts that defile us. David prayed this psalm after he had been confronted over Bathsheba. If God can forgive David for what he did there, then God can definitely clean your heart too.
Investing in the right treasure
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.Matthew 6v21
Just let that sink in… go on, let it sink real deep into your thoughts… it doesn’t matter how much you say you love Jesus unless you are investing everything into Him, including your emotions. It just doesn’t matter. The thing that you actually love is what you are investing in. Whether it is fantasising over your crush, dieting like crazy to fit into “that dress” for X event, or dedicating your whole bedroom’s decor to your favourite fandom, that is where your treasure is.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.Proverbs 3v5
So where do we invest? What treasure do we put our heart into? Proverbs is pretty clear on this – we invest in God. This looks like praying every day on purpose; reading the Bible regularly (i.e. daily); spending time in intentional worship, whether that is through songs, journaling, dancing, or something else; listening to sermons and speakers who are preaching from the Bible. When we come at these different activities with the clear intention of investing in God, our hearts will be changed to trust in Him.
Over to you
These verses are only a small selection of where the Bible mentions the heart. I hope that they will provide the building blocks for your emotions and serve as a reminder about who is in charge.
Hint: it isn’t you or your emotions. God is the one in charge!